New York State Whitetail Management Coalition

Working to improve deer management and buck hunting in NY

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What is “Yearling Buck Protection”?

It is setting harvest standards that protect the majority of yearling bucks, 1.5 year old bucks with their first set of antlers from harvest. This allows them to grow which means hunters see more bucks and harvest larger bucks. It is a know fact that hunter satisfaction increases significantly at the sight of larger bucks

What about “meat” hunters and yearling buck protection?

Yearling buck protection will produce approximately the same number of bucks but they will be larger and heavier. Many hunters support the program for this reason alone.  They realize that there will be more venison per tag. Yearling buck protection is not just about antlers.  It is about a deer herd that is healthier and consists of more than just immature bucks.

Why Antler Restrictions and not a one buck limit?

Often when people talk about a one buck they are ACTUALLY REFERRING TO keeping poachers from killing more that their limits.  NY gun hunters are entitled to only one buck per gun hunting license.*  These tags represent approximately 80% of the antler male deer harvested annually in NY.  Only a small portion of the harvest, approximately 20%, is a result of Bow and Muzzleloader seasons. We know that many of these hunters do not get a buck in both seasons. A one-buck rule would just enough bucks to make a difference.

SURVEY found only 33% of New York Hunters supported a one buck rule.

(* In suburban areas such as long Island after harvesting a doe, hunters are given a buck or doe tag)

What about mistakes?

Hunters in 22 other states have successfully adapted to protecting yearling bucks and so can New York hunters. In the current antler restriction areas in Ulster and Sullivan Counties hunters have adapted well. Only a few summonses are written each year and a good portion of them are “add-on” summonses to already illegal deer due to baiting, spotlighting or shooting from the road. The average fine for harvesting a sub legal buck is $250 in the current antler restriction areas.

Why points to protect yearling bucks?

Hunters traditionally must already look to the head of a deer to determine gender.  It is not unreasonable to expect hunters to look at the animal’s antlers and count three points.  Also, law enforcement officers find it easy to enforce. While antler spread or beam length may intrinsically have value in yearling buck protection, they are much harder to field judge quickly.

Sportsmen in at least 8 other wildlife management units have sought the expansion of the antler restriction program.  Larger areas will increase the success of the program.  The more hunters that see and experience the benefits, the easier further expansion will be!  The DEC “believes that large contiguous areas with consistent regulations minimizes confusion among hunters and may reduce accidental non-compliance”.

Is it hard to count points in a hunting situation?

Under yearling buck protection the bucks eligible for harvest are older and  much bigger. Their added age and better health is reflected in larger antlers racks.  They have a distinctive larger body shapes.  The points on 2.5+ year old bucks are usually not just an inch.  They are more developed and are representative of a “racked” buck.   If  you are having trouble counting points it’s a yearling and it would be best to let it go a year, even if it just meets the minimum restriction.

What are other ways to protect yearling bucks?

There are other ways to reduce hunting pressure to protect more bucks including yearlings. However, these methods would require a loss of opportunity to hunters which is usually not considered desirable by hunters.

Examples are:

Shortening the hunting season- hunters do not want less opportunity to hunt, ”Earn-a-buck”- may result in more hunters leaving the tradition as most hunter wish to hunt bucks, and a buck quota where hunters would have to draw a tag before being able to hunt.

Why are there so few big bucks?

In most of New York,  because bucks can and will be harvested as yearlings very few bucks live to older age classes. In fact, less than 2% live to age 4. Alternatively  does, where harvest intensity is controlled, and generally lower, over 10% live to age 4.

Is yearling buck protection Trophy hunting?

No! Yearling Buck protection is not managing for trophy hunting, although many more hunters will take the biggest bucks of their lives after a few years of in New York. Yearling buck protection moves the harvest pressure to 2.5 year  and older  bucks.  Hunters can expect to see some 3.5 year old bucks and there will be an increase in the 4.5+ bucks as well. Trophy aged deer are generally considered older that 4.5 years.

What about exempting seniors?

Senior hunters make up an increasingly larger segment of our hunting populace. Exempting the seniors group of hunters from the antler restriction program would compromise the success of the program

What about youth?

Currently in NY there is an exemption from the antler restriction for hunters under the age of 17. This is intended to maximize the opportunity for hunting success among young hunters and increase their interest in hunting. These young hunters are given an age class of buck all to themselves; which provides extensive opportunities for harvest. The minimum age for hunting big game with a firearm was reduced to 14 years of age in 2008.

Should the yearling buck protection be expanded?

Sportsmen in at least 8 other wildlife management units have sought the expansion of the antler restriction program.  Larger areas will increase the success of the program.  The more hunters that see and experience the benefits, the easier further expansion will be!  The DEC “believes that large contiguous areas with consistent regulations minimizes confusion among hunters and may reduce accidental non-compliance”.

Is yearling buck protection for just for wealthy hunters?

To the contrary, yearling buck protection levels the playing field for all hunters.  Every hunter will have an equal opportunity to harvest an older buck.

Will yearling bucks protection result in mistaken kills and poaching?

There has been no appreciable increase in illegal or mistaken kills in the pilot program areas in New York. In the pilot areas, approximately 16 summonses have been issued for sub legal bucks (2009)  and a good portion of those were already illegal because other violations. Other states, such as Pennsylvania have not experienced any additional problems.

Will more land be posted?

The current situation with no yearling buck protection requires land owners to post and limit access to their land to improve buck hunting. With yearling protection applied to all hunters this would not be necessary. Yearling buck protection levels the playing field for all hunters.

What do hunters’ think about yearling buck protection?

Most hunters want to hunt and harvest the largest bucks possible.  Hunters support for yearling buck protection is rapidly increasing as demonstrated in the below surveys.

Cornell HDRU 2007 – 63% support yearling buck protection and 15% against them in the proposed area and        59% said it would improve hunting satisfaction.

NEW YORK STATE CONSERVATION COUNCIL Survey found 61% statewide favoring Antler Restrictions.

Tiger Survey found 75% favor a new buck management plan and that 65% are not happy with current NYS deer management.

Do Sportsmen’s Clubs and federations support Yearling Buck Protection?

Yes, many clubs support yearling buck protection as do many federations of sportsmen’s clubs.

Do Sportsmen’s Clubs participate in yearling buck protection?

Many clubs are already practicing yearling buck protection and are frustrated when the juvenile deer that they pass on, leave the property and are harvested. They would like a universal harvest standard to protect yearling bucks that applies to all hunters.

How will the rut change?

Timing of the rut will remain consistent, however it will be more apparent.  We can expect a more intense rut with greater rut behavior such as sparring among bucks, scraping, rubbing and grunting.  Hunting Techniques such as rattling and grunting will be more effective as older bucks  respond aggressively to challenges. See below maps of hunter’s observation of increases in rut behavior after yearling buck protection MO graphs

What about PA?

PA’s plan was to drastically reduce the state’s deer herd by removing a lot of does. Pennsylvania implemented antler restrictions as a benefit for hunters. The antler restriction program is strongly supported by hunters today Link. New York is not proposing decreasing the deer herd from current buck take objectives. No one in NY is proposing a reduction in the deer herd as part of protecting yearling bucks.

Biological and Social Aspects of Antler Point Restriction in Pennsylvania (PDF)

What do sportsmen in other states think?

Yearling buck protection is becoming increasing popular around the country. Currently 22 states have yearling buck protection and several states are expanding their yearling buck protection program this year.

  • Missouri started yearling buck protection with only 51% of hunters in support and now it is up to 70% in support of the program.
  • In Pennsylvania 65% of the hunters support the yearling buck protection program.
  • In New York 69% of the hunters from the yearling buck protection areas support continuing the program.

How satisfied are hunters with yearling buck protection in NY?

In terms of hunter satisfaction in the antler restriction area, one just needs to ask the hunters in the area about how buck hunting improved. During the hunting season just look at the pictures in the newspaper.(LINK)

Hunter satisfaction has increased as a result of the antler restrictions. MOST IMPORTANTLY 69% WANT TO CONTINUE THE PROGRAM!

Can real change be achieved with yearling buck protection?

Yes, hunting is the highest form of mortality deer face. Hunters can and do dictate herd composition. After many decades of experiencing the “young buck” age structure some hunters mistakenly believe that is all that can be expected. Deer are capable of surviving into their teens and survival rates of young adults are very high, excluding hunting mortality. Changing hunter’s harvest of yearling bucks will change herd composition to include larger and older bucks.

What would yearling buck protection accomplish?

  1. Larger bucks – This is the most straight forward and obvious result of yearling buck protection with antler restrictions. Yearling bucks have very good prospects of surviving to the following fall. Research including recent work in PA show that over 75% of bucks that survive a hunting season will survive to the following fall. NY’s deer belong to the subspecies, O.v. borealius, which occurs over much of the northeastern portions of the deer’s range – east of the Mississippi from Illinois to New Jersey northward into Canada and given an opportunity to live a few years could produce deer to rival those found most anywhere.
  2. More Bucks – Protecting all or portions of one or more year classes results in adding most of these bucks to the buck population the following fall. Nearly a doubling of preseason buck numbers is possible.
  3. Balancing Adult Sex Ratios – Yearling buck protection would tend to bring the buck to doe ration more in balance.
  4. Harvest Rates – Protecting yearling bucks would result in one season of reduced opportunity to harvest a buck followed by a return to conditions where buck harvests should approach the level previously achieved. Long term buck harvest rates are likely to settle in around previous levels, as would doe harvest needs.

Will Yearling buck protection increase your hunting satisfaction?

If the prospects of seeing more bucks afield, of having a better chance of taking a larger buck, or of successfully using hunting techniques such as “grunting” or “rattling” interests you, then yearling buck protection will boosting your hunting satisfaction.

Are There Risks or Costs with Yearling Buck Protection?

The biggest cost of Yearling Buck Protection is the “investment period” of one year with limited buck harvest.

Long term harvest opportunity following a program set to protect yearlings, would result in harvest opportunities approaching those previously available.

Does voluntary yearling buck protection work?

Not for the majority of hunters. For example, Delaware County’s hunter density is one hunter per 41 acres on small private parcels. This means that even if a hunter passes on a yearling buck, it is likely it will leave the area and that another hunter will harvest it. Very large land owners may have some success but not the success that would result from everyone protecting yearling bucks equally.

Are hunter numbers dropping?

Yes, all but 2 states in the nation are experiencing severe drops in hunters. NY claims a -2% drop per year. Many of the states with lower declines have much better buck management and they protect yearling bucks. We need to make hunting better to increase participation.

Can the public perception of hunting be improved?

It would help if the government did more to educated the general public as to why hunting is important and should be supported by all New York residents. Young people are much less likely to start hunting when the DEC, media, and general public disparage do little to communicate it’s merits or encourage participation.

Does NY harvest a lot of yearling bucks?

NY has the highest percentage of yearling bucks in the harvest of any state in the country. In many areas of New York yearling buck harvest is over 75% of the total buck take as in Delaware County. See map

What about freedom to choose?

The majority of hunters would like the freedom to harvest a big buck. As it stands now with the overwhelming majority of  the herd consisting of juvenile bucks we don’t have much of a choice.   The only choice we have now is a little buck or no buck. This is not the kind of choice that gets people into the woods to hunt.

What about overall herd numbers?

Overall deer numbers are managed by harvesting does. This is what controls how many deer, buck and does, are available to harvest. Antler restrictions protect yearling bucks and allow them to make it to the older age classes. Therefore hunters will see more bucks and with proper doe management harvest the same number of bucks.

How can yearling buck protection be implemented?

All that is required is the DEC redefine what is classified as a legal buck . This is simple a modification of the existing regulation’s wording.

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